Thursday, January 30, 2020

Forgotten Lessons

Experiencing withdrawal symptoms after finishing this lengthy well-narrated and well-produced series about the greatest events of WWII in colour produced last year.

With an enormous amount of survivor testimonials and British, German, American, Japanese, Russian and Dutch perspectives the new series outshines the older ‘World War II in HD Colour’ (2009) narrated by Robert Powell. Those old grainy black and white images of 70-80 years ago are colorised using the latest techniques, so that old day politicians, Nazi soldiers and officers, the allies’ infantrymen and pilots, civilians, inmates at the concentration camps look so real and relatable, as if all that horror is unfolding right now in front of our eyes. We are reminded not just by narration but also by these very images that it all has happened and might happen again, if we slip into traps of crazy but alluring minds, populist, extremely popular, hatred-spreading politicians. We are reminded of Hitler’s motto before he came to power: “Let’s make Germany great again!”

Adolf’s overdeveloped sense of vengeance is so obvious when we see him full of silly arrogance entering the Compiègne Wagon to sign the Armistice of 22 June 1940 with his disgraced French counterpart. He had to drag the carriage out of a French museum and place it at the exact site of the signing of the Armistice of 11 November 1918 with Germany as the loser of the First World War. He wanted to erase that moment from the memories by the second signing; this time victoriously. As if there never was a loss; it had never happened. To make sure that it is fully forgotten he had the wagon destroyed afterwards. We realise from the dawn of his political life that the world is dealing with a psycho who enjoys a great deal of popularity in his own country.

Apart from dehumanising experiments of the Nazis, the concentration camps and Holocaust, we also learn about Churchill’s atrocities more vividly; about the British attack on a French warship in Algerian waters that killed 1200 French nationals, since Paris changed hands. He regretted it later. It’s terrifying to see in colour what happened to Dresden’s civilians after the “firestorm” set by the British/American air forces. It swept off 25000 mostly civilian lives. But it pales in comparison to Tokyo bombing that killed 100 000 and flattened the Japanese capital in a couple of hours of the most destructive bombing so far; until Hiroshima tragedy overshadows all other atrocities in human history. 70 000 people evaporate in less than a second with tens of thousand more victims to follow. The same happens with Nagasaki to make the Japanese capitulation possible... The prelude to these colossal disasters of humanity was the Japanese surprise strike on Pearl Harbor that killed over 2400 American servicemen about 4 years earlier...

You might know most of these stories if you’ve been a good student at history class. However, this well-structured documentary in colour brings those events to life and shakes you up and saddens you. 

You can feel more profoundly that human race tends to not retrieve lessons from the past.